Legendary lock Victor Matfield has described Johann van Graan as “one of the great young coaches in South Africa” and believes that he will be part of the Springboks set-up in the future.
Van Graan took over at Munster following the departure of Rassie Erasmus in 2017 and has helped maintain the Limerick outfit’s status amongst the European elite, despite a lack of silverware.
The 41-year-old has come under increasing pressure in recent times, however, due to the Irish province’s disappointing performances.
Although Van Graan is arguably facing his most difficult time as Munster’s boss, Matfield has backed him to overcome the current struggles, make a success of his next role and eventually be part of the Bok set-up.
Grown a lot
“He’s grown a lot and I think he’s one of the great young coaches in South Africa that will come back at some stage and hopefully coach the Springboks,” the South African great said on SuperSport.
Munster are in a good position in both the United Rugby Championship and Champions Cup, but they have been difficult to watch over the past few weeks.
The Irish province have generally ground out victories this season, while they were heavily criticised following their loss to Connacht.
Van Graan’s men are struggling to find that forward dominance and consistent front foot ball, but Matfield believes that they have been hampered by injuries to key players.
“I spoke to Johann van Graan and, for him, it’s very difficult,” he said.
“For him, his pack is very important; his tight five. So, he brought in RG Snyman, he brought in (Jason) Jenkins – both of them out. So, there’s two big South African guys that he thought were going to give him that power game, especially the way he wants to play, not there.
“So, he’s not getting that go-forward from that tight five that he was thinking he would get. So (it is) very difficult at the moment.”
Matfield also revealed a key reason for Van Graan leaving Munster to go to Premiership strugglers Bath.
The men from Limerick have failed to truly compete with the might of Leinster over the past few years, which is in part due to their hands being tied in a few areas.
“Look, he feels bad because he really enjoyed his time at Munster. He loves the people there. But he said it’s very difficult, he said all the great players go to Leinster,” Matfield added.
“So, he has to compete (with them), he comes second in every competition but he doesn’t win trophies. Leinster have got this amazing team. And again, financially, he’s trying to (sign) the guys from outside to make a difference.
“The local players, most of them, go to Leinster. So, it’s very hard.
“Going to Bath he will get opportunities to build a squad, and that’s what he likes. He wants to build a squad, get people in, get something for four, five, six years and build something amazing in Bath.”